With 2011 now underway I thought I would briefly summarise 2010. It was a busy yet creative year were I predominately focused on my PhD research, this seemingly ENDLESS task will likely consume much of my time this year. I achieved a lot: completion of 2 studies: interviews and observations including research ethnic’s (and we all know how lengthy this can be), MPhil to PhD transfer examination, countless paper submissions which led to a major conference acceptance, and constant academic reading among other items. 2010 was also a year for sharing my research and reaching out to charities and disability and accessibility community via presentations and seminars, HCID CP Day, demo session and most surprisingly an unconference. These opportunities enabled me to meet and work alongside fantastic people whom had different experiences and insights of which I highly value. 2010 also presented the opportunity to regularly volunteer at user-led organizations directed at young adults with disabilities, learn British Sign Language (BSL) and par take in charity running e.g. Sports Relief 3 Mile run, Race for Life 5k and British 10K run. Furthermore, personally 2010 allowed me to expand on some of my ‘odd’ interests mainly concerning all-things Apple, Wii gaming, Star Wars, Vampires (books, films and TV shows etc.) and most importantly Guinea Pigs. I can now officially state that most, if not all, of my social media friends are aware of these ‘interests’ and are likely frustrated with my constant chatter; but having obtained a overshare badge on foursquare, this is unlikely to change – sorry :). But 2010 also presented challenges e.g. constant Crohn’s disease flare ups, a family bereavement, a distressing motorbike accident, being a carer with limited support etc., such challenges did not prevent me from pushing forward but provided strength and persistence – these acquired attributes are highly valued and will be undoubtably drawn on in the coming year. I hope that 2011 will bring exciting web accessibility research and technology, new apple products 🙂 and most importantly happiness and success. I will end this mini blog by wishing all those who read this a prosperous 2011.
Today I received an email from Waitrose Clerkenwell informing me that @helenasustar and I had received 30% of a £1000 pot from their Community Matters scheme for Scope Charity, raising our fundraising total to over £550. My response was simply “WOW”. Since receiving the email I have been thinking back at our fundraising journey. So, for my 1st blog I thought I would share the experience.
It started with a tweet in January from @ScopeEvents asking for Asics British 10k runners. I tweeted back “I’m up for it” without hesitation, I suppose it was because Scope is a charity that’s always pulled on the strings of my heart i.e. being a care giver to a parent with cerebral palsy. I generally believe that running for a marathon, 10k or 1k is often enjoyed as a shared experience and so challenged @helenasustar to run with me. Our only challenge other than training for the run was to raise at least £100 each. We started on the obvious routes: asking friends and family for sponsorship and setting up Virgin Money Giving webpages. However, we were struggling to reach our goal, this was primarily contributed to our busy schedules and the demanding nature of our respective PhD’s. During mid-February our worrying began to set in with questions like “what are we going to do?” “is this actually possible?”. The answer was simple: link the fundraising to my PhD and have an event that would bring together City University London students, researchers and staff within a fundraising environment to raise awareness of the requirements of people with cerebral palsy when using web technology (hmm… maybe it wasn’t so simple). To add pressure to this, I decided to link the event to my MPhil to PhD transfer examination. In reflection I was just adding fuel to the already burning fire – 1st lesson learnt: Don’t over complicate things. This was promptly removed, thanks to the Ash Cloud leaving my examiners stranded in US . The fundraising event, now known as the “HCID Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day” planning went underway and the stress gradually built up and on 23rd April was happily washed away. I personally feel the day was a hit, so much so I forgotten the stress that came to produce it, or maybe I am choosing not to remember it.
Anyway, I feel the event was rather different, we asked the ‘end-users’ to tell the story and use my research to enhance it. It began with awareness posters being displayed alongside an art exhibition by Zoe Kumaramangalam (a then unknown graphic artist with cerebral palsy who used photoshop alongside assistive devices such as pointers and screen readers, to create inspiring works of art). Her message to visitors was simply: “I have cerebral palsy and I am independent”.
Visitors were also given the opportunity to view posters, outlining my research findings, that littered the walls and talk to web end users (from Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea) about their technology needs and the barriers they face. The day ended with us selling more than 200 raffle tickets totally £264.80. On hearing the success of the event Waitrose contacted me and offered to further support the fundraising by including us in the Community Matters scheme, now taking our total to £569.80.
Now reflecting, I must say incorporating one’s research alongside a related charity can generate research interest and sponsorship; and so I recommend others to follow suit especially when such charities help researchers to obtain participants. It’s a nice way to say thank you.